21-23 June 2024
Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre

Avoid Drapery Disasters!

10 questions you should ask when engaging in a building designer

What is worse than having a fabulous home with substandard drapery. With large windows, cheap tacky drapery is easy to spot, and bound to make or break an interior. The first thing to do, is to inspect the curtain, so take it out of the package if it’s a readymade or if it’s custom, ask the workroom or retailer to show you a sample drape to inspect their quality.

Outlined below are some basic elements that define a great quality drape from a cheap and tacky one even if they both use the same fabric.

1. The header

The curtain heading quality will make or break a drape. There is an art to making a beautiful header; gathering tapes and automated pleats just won’t cut it, they must be handmade.

Another type of heading style to avoid particularly if you are investing in custom made drapery is gathering tapes. It has been a popular header style, particular the pencil pleat look as it is generally cheaper but it’s worth investing in a great handmade header or a flat header. What is popular at the moment is the inverted box pleat, flat headers and also the s-fold, they all look great.

2. Hems

The first thing to look at when looking for quality drapery is the hems. Quality drapery has wide double hems; meaning the fabric is folded twice. Hems smaller than 3 to 4cm on the sides and 10cm on the bottom will truly spoil a drape no matter how beautiful the fabric is. Hems play an important role to ensure that they drape well.

Visible hems in general are not a decorator’s preference so blind hemming will achieve a high class look, however at times the type of fabric is unsuitable for a blind stitching.

While you are looking at the hems check the stitching, crooked and puckered stitching will not allow a drape to fall correctly. If you cannot see the stitches from the front of the drape, there is a good chance it is blind stitched/hemmed.

3. Curtain length

This is not so much about the fabrication of the curtain itself, but it is also important to get the length of the curtains right, and the number one thing to avoid is short curtains. Unless it’s a commercial space, curtains above 30mm from the floor will not look right. The best is 15mm above the floor for a tailored look, or to the floor for a subtle look and an extra 25mm for a slight puddled look. For a puddled look an additional 500mm to 150mm will give a nice puddled look without it being too much. If your windows don’t allow for full length curtains, perhaps a roman blind is best? If it must be short then ensure it sits 150mm below the architrave.

The industry standard is to install curtains 10cm above the window architrave and to each side to prevent too much light, air and visibility through the sides. This is to be considered a bare minimum and I cannot stress it enough to my clients. The higher the better. Installing curtains just below the cornice creates a huge impact by drawing the eyes up and enlarging the space. This is the preference of most designers. Curtains hung just above the window tend to look sparse. If you are installing on a track, consider installing it from the ceiling using a top fix track. If you want a decorative rod, there are obstructions or the ceilings are too high in comparison to the window, then go as high as you can.

If you don’t have a lot of wall space above your architrave, double check your rod bracket measurements and ensure the bracket will fit in that space. The top window architrave should not be visible when the curtain is drawn. Do not install any rod or track on the architrave itself as it can break off.

4. Fullness

Skinny panels that hang 10cm off the floor, are crooked at the edges and are stretched completely flat when they are closed. Cringeworthy! Different headers will require a different fullness however as a rule of thumb a fullness of at least 2 times the width of your rod is ideal and the standard for custom made curtains is 2.5 times which will look full and fabulous. To save on fabric and ultimately money, a 2 times fullness is generally sufficient.


Lastly there’s so much more to crafting beautiful quality drapery but this is a good start for a novice on the hunt for new curtains in their home. If these basics are covered, all the other elements on your drape will be covered by your workroom.

To recap, here is a list of questions to ask next time before you invest in new curtains for your home.

  1. Can I see a sample drape?
  2. Are the heading pleats on the curtains machine made or handmade?
  3. Will the curtain header be made with a pleating/gathering tape?
  4. Are the curtain hems full double hems?
  5. How wide are the curtain side and bottom hems?
  6. Are the curtains blind hemmed?
  7. Where will my curtains sit? Aim for full floor length curtains and at least 100mm above the architrave however the closer to the ceiling the better, and at least 100mm extended beyond each side of the architrave.
  8. What is the fullness of the curtain?